I just finished reading a report called “Press Release Newswires — a Circulation without a Readership?” I took the survey that was the basis of this paper on LinkedIn. The title already suggests that newswires may not be as valuable as some people hope they are.
Of course, putting a release on newswire like PR Newswire, PRWeb, Business Wire etc. is not a guarantee of coverage. It’s not a guarantee that anyone will read your release either. So what are they good for? According to this paper, not a lot.
Has the Web Ruined Press Releases?
“Before the Web, releases that were published would almost guaranteed to reach relevant readerships. This is because a release would be ‘processed’ by a proper, trained journalist, who would assess its relevance to the publication’s audience. Now, however, the sheer number of web sites that contain “news” content means that one’s press release could potentially appear on many of the billions of pages, yet could be read or trusted by no one.”
Even online they argue that people want credibilty from a 3rd party, when they search for news, not a list of press releases. Sometimes press releases are nothing more than an advertisement. “What separates public relations and advertising, and what gives PR its value, is the third-party recommendation that it brings in the form of coverage in trusted and valued news sources.”
Merely sending out a press release and paying for it doesn’t buy or guarantee coverage (because if it did, again, it would be advertising). It can get your news online. It can get you news distributed to a wide variety of web sites. But it cannot guarantee someone will write about or link to your press release or story.
As the report points out, you can reach a wide audience online and a variety of online publications, a newswire is a cost-effective tool to do that. But it’s not that targeted.
Positive Press Starts with a Good Product, Service or Company
Here’s the part that I liked because it’s a tough one for people who are new to this to grasp. Another problem that a press release can’t solve — it can’t make a good product, service or company. You can make people aware of you but it can’t make people buy from or like you. PR can’t do that either.You’ve got to start with something that has value or no amount of press will redeem it.
The Value of Links
Google’s Matt Cutts has said that press releases have value, but not as much the press release itself, but from people writing about and linking to the press release. So again, a 3rd party endorsement. But as I point out in my book, you should share the news in a variety of ways. Online, links have value because they help push a web page, video, image, etc. higher in search results. It’s a very different value than press releases have traditionally been. The paper slams David Meerman Scott’s assertion that a press release has value on your web site and on a newswire.
Direct to Customer Press Releases
Another value of an online press release is in sales or leads – these are press releases written not for the media but direct to your customer. The paper discredits this even while talking about the need to measure results. When my clients say their press release got their phone ringing – I find that valuable. There is a lot of news that isn’t interesting enough to be covered by media but still has a valuable audience.
The paper gave some interesting information about PR Newswire. I imagine the unnamed competitor to be PRWeb, but that’s just a guess. It makes me wonder if it’s just that PR Newswire is more trusted. It’s certainly been around the longest. I’m guessing more PR pros use it and since they know how to write a good story, their news is picked up more.
- PR Newswire claims that their press releases are picked up 55% of the time.
- PR Newswire said Business Wire gets picked up 38% of the time.
- They state that their “next competitor” gets picked up 43% of the time.
- PR Newswire was the most popular newswire in the study.
I agree that newswires are complementary to traditional PR activities – calling or emailing journalists to sell them on writing a story. That cannot be replaced. It’s also true that a lot of smaller companies won’t get coverage by mainstream media because they simply aren’t newsworthy. However, they can still use newswires to get coverage in search engines.
Interestingly the paper states that “Public relations, ironically, has one of the worst reputations of any profession.” I’d like to see data to back that up (since I do not have a PR background). Also ironic is that this paper was written by a PR firm.
What do you think? What role do newswires play in PR? Do they add value or are they hurting an industry that is already struggling with a bad reputation?
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